Each year, the CX Network surveys customer experience professionals, solution providers, and industry experts on customer experience trends in the Global State of Customer Experience 2019. They ask respondents which companies they think have the best customer experience, and this year, these five business-to-consumer (B2C) companies rose to the top:
These B2C examples provide critical examples for business-to-business (B2B) companies to learn from and apply as we try to transform our organizations to become more customer-centric.
As companies that sell to businesses, rather than to consumers, it’s often hard to make connections between B2B and B2C companies. We play a whole different ball game.
But although our sales cycles often require buy-in across departments and take six-plus months, our customers are still people. And although our customer support and success processes are convoluted and multi-step, we can still use the same principles to transform our organizations to be more customer-centric.
5 CX Lessons for B2B Companies from Disney, Apple, Uber, Amazon, and Zappos
The CX Network offers some brief analysis on what makes each company’s experience special. We’ll dive into it a bit more to uncover how B2B companies can apply these lessons.
“Disney’s immersive experience from planning, executing and planning to return.” (CX Network)
For anyone that’s been to a Disney resort, you’ll immediately grasp the truth of this statement about Disney’s customer experience. And for those who have worked there, you know firsthand the effort Disney puts into every phase of their customers’ experience. They work to make Disney truly immersive for their customers.
- Planning: Disney’s “Imagineers” are expert story-tellers, and they want to immerse customers in the story during every stage of their visit. Even the trash cans are themed and designed differently, and the roads paved to reflect the correct settings.
- Executing: Disney’s cast members are trained in theme language, so that when customers visit a park, they’re greeted, treated, and guided through that genre of the park. For example, in the Star Wars area, staff meets customers with, “Greetings, traveler.”
- Planning to return: Disney emphasizes reusable mementos (like magic bands) that customers can bring back when they return. Plus, the “My Disney Experience” app shows customers that each vacation is unique and personalized. They give their visitors endless reasons to come back with seasonal events, new attractions, and festivals.
How can B2B companies apply these principles of an excellent customer experience?
Lesson 1: Plan each stage of your customer’s journey.
Do you have a customer journey map? It’s critical to improving the customer experience.
Why? With a journey map, you approach CX improvements by understanding how customers move through your organization. You can review each period and transition and locate frustrations and pain points at each stage. If you do have a map, ensure each department involved knows how to use the map as a guideline.
“Hands on help, and phone support for those not near a store. Driving success of the customer over ROI for these interactions.” (CX Network)
People rely on their phones and expect they’ll always be there, and when they’re not working, it’s very frustrating. So, Apple provides a Genius Bar where experts can help you fix your phone, hands-on. When a customer isn’t located near a store, they provide phone support. Plus, the troubleshooting is free, so Apple isn’t making money off the process (“driving success of the customer over ROI for these interactions”).
But the product of Apple’s commitment to customer success is brand loyalty. Over the past 8 years, their brand loyalty among customers has stayed above 73% (Statista).
Lesson 2: Recognize that customer experience initiatives don’t always have a one-to-one ROI.
This isn’t to say you won’t ever see ROI, or that you should disregard ROI altogether. Of course, you need to see profit and a return on investment from your customer experience initiatives. But the key is that it might not be a clear cut, one-to-one return.
It takes creative thinking and customer journey mapping to identify your customers’ wants and needs. In the case of Apple, they realize that easily accessible and free customer support exponentially improves the customer experience. They’re creating a culture of ease and commitment to their customer’s success. They don’t see a direct ROI at the store, but they see it in their brand loyalty.
“Digital First/Only, Low Customer Effort, time to product” (CX Network)
Uber has made it extremely easy for anyone with a phone and a credit card to get transportation, anywhere, especially when you compare Uber with its alternatives. You can request a ride, indicate your exact location, know your time of arrival, update your friends or family on your location, and track your driver all through your phone. It’s a one-stop-shop for managing your experience, made effortless by Uber.
Lesson 3: Reduce the effort customers must make to be successful.
There are a few lessons we could pull from Uber’s example (going digital, reducing effort, releasing software updates faster), but we’re going to focus on reducing effort. Reducing effort for our customers looks a bit different in practice from Uber, but the principle of creating a central digital hub is still the same.
When customers have a question for you, where do they go first? Don’t lead them on a wild goose chase – create a dedicated online space, like an online customer community, to be their first stop.
With a community, they can search for discussion threads that might answer their question, check the knowledge base, or send a discussion thread straight to support. Reduce the amount of effort it takes them to get solutions, and you’ll have happier customers.
“Their removal of friction in the purchasing process.” (CX Network)
Like respondents point out in the CX Network’s survey, Amazon has built in multiple components of the purchasing process that make it easy for customers to click “place order.”
Here are a few features that stand out:
- Personalization: They know their customers: Using all the data customers put in, Amazon can spit back out what their customers might like, so that with each visit to their website or app, customers can find complementary items to fit their lifestyle.
- Amazon Prime: With Prime, customers can buy items quickly with “free” shipping, instead of going to the store to pick something out or dealing with another retailer’s website where shipping is extra, or not as fast, etc.
- Reviews: They draw on their community of customers to contribute reviews so you don’t have to test everything yourself.
What can we learn?
Lesson 4: Remove friction from your processes.
Removing friction from the sales cycle is absolutely important for B2B companies (and it’s the first stop on a potential customer’s journey with you), but that process will look different for a B2B and B2C companies. Consider these other customer-facing processes where you can focus on eliminating friction.
For example, what about onboarding? Do customers receive a warm handoff from the sales person who inked their deal to implementation and/or their customer success manager? Or do they have to call your main number to figure out what’s next in the process, or hunt on YouTube for videos on how to get set up with your product?
Don’t let that happen. Dig into important processes that happen in every customer’s journey and see where there might be friction that could cause dissatisfaction with your brand.
“Customer Centricity culture” (CX Network)
Although the report doesn’t convey much insight about how Zappos creates a customer-centric culture, we know consumers have noticed it. You can read some inspiring, human stories here about how they’ve used customer support to make a big difference with customers.
For Zappos, it is one-to-one interactions that build trust with customers.
Similar to the Apple example, they’re not basing the success of their customer support on the usual metrics. Zappos has turned customer support into a brand loyalty opportunity by making each support interaction personal and human.
Lesson 5: Humanize the customer experience.
Is there an opportunity for you to make customer interactions more human? Since SaaS companies’ in-person interactions are often limited, you should consider how to make the most of them when they arise.
Maybe it’s by imitating Zappos and giving your customer support and success managers a budget to make a customer’s day better with a small gift. Or maybe it’s a change you make at a broader scale by creating an online community to multiply personal interactions among customers and staff. Whatever it is, think outside the box to how you can focus on connecting with customers as people.
Use These Customer Experience Principles to Become More Customer-Centric
It takes creative leadership to see past a seeming lack of ROI to connect the dots to revenue somewhere else, but this kind of visionary leadership pays off. The CX Network report quotes Fred Reichfeld, the creator of the Net Promotor System: “the companies who are winning, have the best profits and have the happiest shareholders, are actually putting customers first.”
In 2020, how can you apply these lessons to your company to become more customer-centric?
See how Genesys, a SaaS-based customer experience platform, is doing this with their customer community. Their online community manager shares his strategies in this on-demand webinar: